With parts of northwest Raleigh now spilling into Durham County, it’s no surprise that growth has been the focus of this year’s race to represent District E on the City Council.
Four-term incumbent Bonner Gaylord is facing a challenge from political newcomer Stef Mendell in Tuesday’s election.
Mendell says she thinks Gaylord, who works for well-known Kane Realty, is too friendly with developers and not transparent enough with residents. Gaylord says he has a proven record as a consensus-builder on the council and as an advocate for smart, sustainable growth.
District E spans much of the city, from North Hills to more rural areas in the northwestern stretches near Interstate 540.
Bio: Gaylord, 39, is the managing director of operations for Kane Realty, which built much of North Hills. He has served on the Raleigh City Council since 2009 and is running for his fifth term. He graduated from Broughton High School and UNC-Chapel Hill, where he also received a master’s degree in business. Gaylord is on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity of North Carolina and the Triangle Commuter Bicycle Initiative.
Issues: As one of the council’s youngest members, Gaylord said he prided himself on his efforts to use technology, including smartphone apps, to make government more accessible. He said he helped establish Open Raleigh, a catch-all site for city data. As a member of the Wake Transit Advisory Committee, he’s taken a particular interest in transportation, as well as urban farming, bike infrastructure and other quality-of-life issues.
Endorsements/affiliations: Gaylord is an unaffiliated voter. In the past he had the endorsement of the Wake County Democratic Party, which this year endorsed his opponent, a registered Democrat. This year, he’s been endorsed by the Sierra Club, Equality NC, the Wake Home Builders Association, Share Raleigh and the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors.
Fundraising: Gaylord had raised $95,300 through Sept. 25. That includes $2,500 from James A. Goodnight, son of the CEO and co-founder of SAS, and $2,000 from the N.C. Realtors Political Action Committee.
His own words: “I have to recuse myself on every case that Kane puts before council, but if I was self-interested, I’d vote against every development project, because they’re competitive to mine. In terms of the city being too cozy with developers, we have 65 people a day moving here and we have to do something about it. It takes partnerships to address the challenges we have now and will face in the future. We have to work with people; we can’t just tell them to go away.”
Bio: Mendell moved from New Jersey to the Triangle with her family when she was 9. She graduated from Broughton High School and UNC-Chapel Hill and worked in communications and marketing, including 17 years at GlaxoSmithKline. Mendell, who turns 63 on Saturday, said she’s devoted much of her time since retiring to neighborhood advocacy, including a push for new stormwater standards for infill development projects. She’s proud of helping turn away a proposal for a seven-story apartment building in her neighborhood.
Issues: Mendell says she wants to involve her neighbors in city government. Protecting neighborhood character and green space are also priorities, and she thinks residents are disadvantaged by city leaders’ relationships with developers. She said she’d work to protect the role of citizen advisory councils in rezoning cases, which was questioned this year by the city’s citizen engagement task force.
Endorsements/Affiliations: Mendell is a registered Democrat. She has been endorsed by the Wake County Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO, the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association, the Wake County Voter Education Coalition and the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association.
Fundraising: By Sept. 25, Mendell had received $26,000. That includes $5,100 from Dean Debnam, who runs Public Policy Polling, and a $2,000 donation Mendell made to her own campaign.
Her own words: “Developers have too much influence on the City Council. They’re down there a lot to talk to staff, and they know how things work. It’s their job to go down there and show up with their lawyers. And ordinary citizens don’t have the time to do that, they don’t always know how the city works. I really feel like we need to make sure ordinary citizens have better representation.”
Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan